Christmas is over and we have all been very naughty around here eating lots of cookies, cakes and cheese. I don’t even want to know the average daily calorie intake of the members of this household; it might make me take up starvation as a hobby. Just kidding I love food way too much to give it up. That being said this week I decided we need to head away from the land of rich and fattening and back to the path of fresh and simple. In that quest I opted for some grilled shrimp and orzo salad as a tasty and sensible dinner for the family that everyone loved. I know in the rest of the country it might be too cold and snowy for grilling, but here in South Florida the winter is grilling season. If it’s too cold where you live for the shrimp to hit the outdoor grill you can cook them inside on a grill pan.
This meal is versatile and can be made ahead and served chilled for a beautiful lunch or cold supper. The lovely orzo salad is nice and sturdy and the leftovers will make a great lunch to pack for work or school. If you aren’t excited about the shrimp feel free to swap some boneless skinless chicken breast for the offending crustaceans. The taztziki sauce has a garlic punch so if that is not your favorite flavor feel free to half or omit the garlic all together. I will normally make the tzatziki sauce first, hours before I think about grilling the shrimp so the flavors have time to marry.
Grilled Shrimp with Minty Orzo Salad and Tzatziki
For the Tzatziki Sauce
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 cucumber peeled and with seeds removed
- ¼ cup diced cilantro
- Half a lemon zested and juiced
- 2 cloves of grated garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Orzo Salad
- 1.5 cups of dry orzo pasta
- 1 bunch of mint diced
- 2 medium shallots thinly sliced
- 3-4 stalks of celery
- 2 zucchini diced
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved
For the Orzo Dressing
- 3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp of black pepper
- ¼ tsp dry oregano
- ¼ tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp honey
- Juice of half a lemon
For the Shrimp
- 15-20 shrimp peeled and deveined
- Juice of one lemon
- ½ cup of red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp of thyme
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp granulated dry garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 2-3 sprigs of mint
Grate the cucumber on a box grater or with your food processor. Squeeze handfuls of the grated cucumber to get the extra water out.
Mix all the ingredients into the yogurt and give everything a gentle stir. Set aside in the refrigerator until you serve the meal.
Start by cooking the pasta per the package directions in salted water, drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil so the grains don’t stick. While the pasta is still hot add the thinly sliced shallots (slicing the shallots is the perfect job for your mandolin) and stir, lightly cooking the shallot with the pasta’s residual heat. Let the pasta cool a little while you make the dressing.
Stir all the dressing ingredients together and then pour the over the pasta. Add the mint and the rest of the veggies to the pasta and toss gently. Taste the salad and adjust the flavors to your preference. You can make the salad right before you grill the shrimp or whenever you have time and let it rest in the refrigerator. It will taste just as good warm or cold.
Grilling the Shrimp
When you are at the fish market take a look at the different offerings, don’t overpay for pre cleaned and deveined shrimp. It’s really not that time consuming to clean the shrimp yourself. Just be sure to remove the entire vein from the back of the shrimp and give them a rinse before you cook them so they are nice and clean.
In a non-reactive container mix the ingredients for the marinade together. Then add the shrimp. The shrimp will only need to marinate for about 10 minutes, if you let them sit in the marinade too long the acid in the marinade will start to cook the shrimp and you will end up with ceviche.
Place the shrimp on a very hot grill. The shrimp will only take about 3 minutes total to cook, so your grill master needs to have some quick moves. When the shrimp come off the grill squeeze some lemon over them and sprinkle with a little salt.
I serve the shrimp over a bed of the orzo pasta with a dollop of the tzatziki and a wedge of lemon. As I have mentioned I have served this meal cold, warm or hot depending on my schedule for that day, so don’t forget this recipe if you need an elegant lunch.